Free agency officially kicks off today at 6:00 p.m. EST.
Editor-in-chief Surya Fernandez, senior writer Brandon Di Perno and site contributor Matt Hanifan partook in a five-question free agency roundtable with our expectations, and hot takes heading into the offseason. Enjoy, and leave your comments below!
What is Miami’s biggest hole on the roster entering the offseason? How do they address it?
Matt Hanifan: The general public, myself included at times, throws the words “star” and “superstar” too loosely. So I won’t go there; but Miami’s biggest need is a third high-caliber player next to Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. Ideally, that player would be a point guard to maximize Butler and Adebayo’s strengths, as well as the remainder of the squad. But any high-caliber shot creator outside of Butler is Miami’s biggest hole, in my opinion.
Brandon Di Perno: If the Heat do not choose to pursue an additional superstar to add next to Jimmy and Bam, I think they need to fill two positions. The first being point guard, and the second being a secondary big. Last season, Dwayne Dedmon performed admirably in his role but a Bobby Portis type player would be ideal next to Bam. In terms of point guard a lot rides on if Goran returns to the Heat. If he doesn’t, a more traditional point guard would be ideal for Bam in the way Chris Paul made the game easier for DeAndre Ayton.
Surya Fernandez: If Dragic is not returning to Miami then clearly it’s point guard as that already was a position of need, with Spoelstra cycling through Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn and playing them out of position. Miami could certainly still use a starting-caliber power forward, like they did last season, so either position is a huge need — ideally it would be a go-to scorer that can not only provide much-needed baskets but also to draw attention from the defense which allows players like Duncan Robinson or Jimmy Butler to thrive.
Which player would be Miami’s most ideal free agent target? Why?
Matt H.: Kyle Lowry. Without question. Lowry helps Miami in several ways. He can create for himself; he generates rim pressure that bends defenses; he’s a near 40 percent 3-pointer shooter who’s excellent in dribble hand-offs, a Heat staple; he can initiate offense and maximize Butler and Adebayo’s strengths as a scorers and playmakers; though he’s still 35, he defends at the point-of-attack better than anyone Miami has, or had, in recent memory. Heck, he even helps Miami, who has ranked in the bottom-third in pace, in transition. He’s the perfect fit.
Surya: The best player available on the market is always the most ideal free agent target. That would be Kawhi Leonard who brings world-class defense and an array of offensive moves, even if he plays the same position as Butler. More realistically, Lowry remains the most logical player to pursue as long as the asking price remains reasonable for a sign-and-trade given the fact that he is already 35.
Brandon: Like Matt I also believe Lowry to be the ideal fit, but not at the rumored price tag. In playing with the Raptors Lowry has often found himself injured due to his physical style of play. At 35 that play style might lead to a lot of missed games. For a Heat team who already struggles with injury, Lowry missing games would cause a lot of problems. Still if they get him at a decent price, Lowry’s competitiveness, aggression and championship mentality would make him a great member of the Miami Heat.
Give me one under-the-radar free agent the Heat could land?
Matt H.: I’ve long been a T.J. McConnell fan, so I’ll say him. He does many of the things Lowry does, sans the deep-ball shooting (career 32.9 percent), but will come at a much cheaper price. He’s also a former teammate of Butler, too. It will be interesting if Pat Riley and Andy Elisburg can maneuver money around to land a backup point guard of his caliber — predicating on if Dragic and Kendrick Nunn depart.
Brandon: JJ Redick. Redick has long been a fan of the Heat culture, and if the Heat can’t keep Duncan they’ll need to fill that shooting void. Redick is a strong locker room guy who can still shoot the ball well, and he could potentially be had at a discount due to his age.
Surya: Spencer Dinwiddie. He was playing great basketball before a serious injury and then got lost in the shuffle with Kyrie Irving and James Harden going to Brooklyn. He’s seven years younger than Lowry and could be had for cheaper, as long as he’s fully healthy he could be a steal.
Is it possible for Miami to become a contender next season?
Matt H.: If Miami acquires Lowry or another high caliber player — while retaining most of its core — then sure, though it’s still going to be very difficult. The Milwaukee Bucks just won the title and don’t appear to be slowing down; Brooklyn isn’t getting any worse with its three-headed monster of Kyrie Irving, James Harden and Kevin Durant, arguably the league’s best player; I expect Boston to improve its supporting cast around Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum; Philadelphia’s might move off of Ben Simmons, for better or for worse, and will probably receive plenty of assets in return; the Atlanta Hawks’ young core isn’t getting any worse and the New York Knicks are back (maybe?)! It’s going to be difficult regardless.
Surya: A LOT of things would have to go right for the Heat, although I suppose that happens every season for the team that eventually wins it all. Yes, they would need to swing for the fences and land a bonafide All-Star to compliment Bam and Butler, but that doesn’t guarantee anything as they would also need to fill out the roster capably and then play consistently and avoid major injuries during the season. And even then they would need to play their best basketball during the postseason, like the Heat did in the bubble.
Brandon: The Heat are always ready to be contenders. It’s easy to forget that they were in the NBA Finals last October. With a stronger roster around Jimmy Butler, and an improving Bam Adebayo there’s no reason why they can’t surprise teams again. Yes, the Nets will make the Eastern Conference hell for the next couple of years, but if the Heat can land a whale like they’ve done time and time again there’s no reason why they can’t compete for a top seed in the East.
What is your boldest Heat prediction this offseason? What’s your boldest league-wide prediction?
Matt H.: As it pertains to the Heat: The Heat add Lowry while retaining Oladipo and Robinson. Since the Heat will likely have to operate under the ~$143 million hard cap, it’s not that realistic — given both are free agents — rather it’s wishful thinking (or typing)!
League-wide bold prediction: Kawhi Leonard doesn’t return to th-...nevermind, I’m not going to try and predict Leonard. That’s a mistake in itself. I’ll boldly predict that Danny Green re-unites with Lebron James and Anthony Davis in Los Angeles on the tax-payer mid-level exception. With its latest addition of Russell Westbrook, the Lakers’ need for shooting grew more pressing. The Lakers have a smidge above $120 million allocated to three players (Westbrook, James, Davis), so the possibility of them using the full non-taxpayer MLE — activating the hard cap — is essentially out the window. The re-marriage makes sense for both sides.
Surya: I’m not sure how bold it is but if the Heat can land a top free agent without sacrificing too much, like trading away Duncan Robinson or Tyler Herro, then I’d say the offseason was a huge success. If anybody in an NBA front office can manage doing that it’s Pat Riley and Andy Elisburg. Elsewhere, I wouldn’t be surprised if another superteam is assembled out of nowhere this summer, much like the Nets (or the Heat in 2010) did given that there are free agents like Chris Paul and Kawhi Leonard out there who appear to be more motivated to win rings rather than which deal is the richest.
Brandon: The Heat land a big player in the offseason, while retaining their key pieces and make a long playoff run next Spring. This is a “In Riley and Elisburg we trust” take, but they’ve been performing magic like this my entire life. There are tons of obstacles, but there are none.